Early Crisis Detection through Literary Analysis

Since September 2017, the research team is elaborating ways in which literary texts can be employed as prognostic instruments for the prevention of violence.

Literature as an Instrument for Prognosis

Although previous research approaches have already noticed the importance of language and texts within the dynamics of conflicts and crises, involving literary texts in the analytical and practical processes of violence prevention has never been taken into consideration.

Literature offers numerous possibilities for the analysis of social developments and political conflict. However, it has in the past been disregarded as a tool for early crisis detection. On the one hand, early studies of our project have shown that literary texts can indicate topics of emotional shifts (threat perception, nationalist/separatist sentiments) and inner-societal conflicts much earlier than other mediums. On the other hand, they can affect perception and therefore the actions of the conflicting parties as well. In this sense, literary texts can be an active part of the dynamics of a crisis. We want to systematically utilize the seismographic and prognostic potential of literature within the framework of our study and make it available to practitioners in politics and early crisis detection. Our aim is not the prediction of certain events, but the early highlighting of shifts in societal contexts and the development of an indicator system which allows for the prognosis of an imminent conflict escalation based on relevant patterns in literary reception.

At the center of our research is the development of a prospective method based on an analysis of the literary infrastructure (book market, literary prizes, bestseller lists), the literary landscape, and the reception of literature. Additionally, we want to transfer these factors and depict them in a “Conflict and Emotion Map”. The term “Map” indicates a concept of a cartographic representation of weak signals (which stay under the radar of conventional approaches) and societal key issues, emotional dynamics, as well as emotional trends in potentially crisis-prone regions, based on literary analysis.

Why Literature?

As reflection and “storage media” of collective emotional experiences, literary texts verbalize traumas, fears and hopes that drive and mobilize people. By recording emotional and mental underlying dynamics they offer, as a “black box” for a conflict region, insights into the complex dynamics of conflict development. According to the basic premise, conflict regions stand at the point of intersection between facts and fictions and therefore require a political as well as a literary analysis.

Selection of Literature

The text corpus that forms the basis of the respective case studies is the result of a series of selection processes that are primarily oriented towards the reception of a text and its impact. The research team assumes that those texts that resonate within society and thus become relevant, can be identified through the number of copies sold (bestsellers), number of new editions, literature prizes, and reviews. While discursive and critical texts show deficits, breaks, and taboos within society, ideological texts, and those inciting or justifying violence, may favor the creation of enemy images and accelerate violent dynamics.


© 2018 Studienprojekt Cassandra — Krisenfrüherkennung durch Literaturauswertung
(Study Project Cassandra – Early Crisis Detection through Literary Analysis)
Weltethos-Institut (Global Ethic Institute)
Hintere Grabenstraße 26, 72020 Tübingen, Germany
Phone +49 70 71 5 49 40 30, info@projekt-cassandra.net

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